By The Nation
In a statement issued yesterday, Thai Ambassador to Wellington Danai Menabodhi said the embassy had organised the advance voting from March 4-16 ahead of the general election in Thailand on Sunday.
The advance voting was organised with the assistance of all agencies as well as volunteers and officials.
“However the shipping of the ballots back to Thailand is beyond our control,” the envoy said.
THAI Airways International president Sumeth Damrongchaitham yesterday said the advance voting ballots from New Zealand arrived at the THAI cargo office on the night of March 23 but no one came to pick them up.
According to election laws, ballot papers cast in advance voting from overseas will be considered invalid if they are not delivered to their intended polling stations for counting before the general election closes at 5pm.
Delay in Bangkok
Sumeth said his office had informed the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok that the ballots, contained in a diplomatic pouch, would arrive by cargo at 8.50pm and that it could send their officials to pick them up from 10pm to 10.30pm.
“However, our staff was informed that the officials could not come to claim them that night. They said they would come in the morning. They came the next day [the election day] and got them at 7.30pm,” Sumeth said.
The national carrier was the latest agency coming out to defend its part in shipping the ballots from New Zealand to Thailand. The Election Commission has said that the ballots from New Zealand had arrived late, after the counting started, which could make them void.
The Thai Embassy in Wellington that organised the advance election in early March issued a statement, detailing its procedures in shipping the ballots to show that it had held the advance voting according to the laws and dispatched them out of New Zealand so that they arrived on time. “The shipping problems are beyond our control,” read the statement.
The EC would meet tomorrow to discuss about the problems.
Danai’s statement came after Election Commission secretary-general Jarungvith Pumma told reporters in Bangkok on Sunday, after counting began, that about 1,500 ballots from New Zealand would not arrive in time to be counted.
Jarungvith put the tardiness down to complications with air cargo and delays involving three airlines. These problems arose despite the ballots being dispatched from New Zealand last Wednesday. Jarungvith said the commissioners would convene today to resolve the matter.
“The embassy understands the feelings of all the voters. It is disappointed and is extremely regretful that the votes of all Thais in New Zealand may not be included in this election despite all of our best efforts and preparations for about two months to hold the event,” the envoy said.
The statement reported that 1,862 Thais had registered to vote in advance and 1,542, or 82.81 per cent, had cast their ballots.
The advance voting had concluded on March 17 and the ballots were dispatched to Thailand on March 18, scheduled to arrive on March 19.